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Paul Ryan: Tech's friend or foe?

Paul Ryan has an active online presence and is a fan of technology's impact on governance.
Paul Ryan has an active online presence and is a fan of technology's impact on governance.
  • It's possible to glean some of Paul Ryan's positions on tech issues from his voting record and prior interviews
  • Ryan publicly opposed SOPA, although he added that Internet piracy was a "legitimate problem"
  • He voted against an amendment that would have established network neutrality as law

(Mashable) -- Technology issues might not be the most pressing topic facing Paul Ryan — Mitt Romney's running mate — as he campaigns for the White House.

In fact, given the state of the economy and the other high-level issues facing the country, it's unlikely that Ryan or any of the other national candidates will be asked substantial questions about technology policy in the coming months.

However, even if Ryan doesn't get asked a single question about technology or the Internet, it's still possible to glean some of his positions from his voting record and prior interviews. Here, we have done just that.

Stop Online Piracy Act & Internet piracy

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The Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, was almost universally vilified by those in the tech community. Ryan never co-sponsored the bill, but that didn't stop rumors from circulating that he supported it.

Eventually, Ryan was at least partially forced to make a statement on the bill by pressure from a group of anti-SOPA Reddit users who either found his stance vague or believed he supported the bill. That group began "Operation Pull Ryan," a grassroots effort to support Ryan's opponent in an upcoming Congressional race.

Soon after the Reddit group began gaining momentum, Ryan announced his opposition to SOPA, saying that it would create "the precedent and possibility for undue regulation, censorship and legal abuse." He added that the Internet is "one of the most magnificent expressions of freedom and free enterprise in history" and it should "stay that way." He did, however, add that Internet piracy was a "legitimate problem."

The opponent supported by the Redditors, Rob Zerban, declared his opposition to SOPA and did an "Ask Me Anything," a form of crowdsourced interview for which Reddit has become famous. Later, Zerban credited the Redditor's efforts to get Ryan to commit to an anti-SOPA stance.

"Reddit was able to force the House Budget Chair to reverse course — shock waves will be felt throughout the establishment in Washington today, and other lawmakers will take notice," wrote Zerban.

Net neutrality

Net neutrality, the idea that Internet networks shouldn't distinguish between the types of traffic carried across them, is a contentious issue in Congress. Many liberals feel it would prevent Internet Service Providers from slowing the web services of competitors, while many conservatives believe it interferes with the free market by regulating private industry.

Ryan, a conservative Republican, falls into that latter camp.

In 2006, he voted against a Democrat-sponsored amendment that would have established network neutrality as law. Last year, Ryan voted for a House resolution disapproving of FCC regulations mandating that any traffic management on the part of ISPs be "reasonable" — a step towards net neutrality.

Open government

Ryan, who has an active online presence, is a proponent of open government and a fan of technology's impact on governance:

"When I started in Congress it was 90% paper, 10% electronic, now it's 90% electronic, 10% paper and constituent correspondence is up tenfold," said Ryan of technology's impact on the relationship between voters and elected officials during an interview at Facebook.

"[Technology and social media] strips away the intermediary that media plays between people and their government. It gets rid of that middleman and allows people to interact directly with their elected officials. The flattening of that process has been tremendously helpful to those of us who want to hear what people think."

Is it important to you that the president and vice president share your opinion on technology issues? Do you want Ryan, Romney, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden to directly address their stances on tech policy? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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